Sunday, August 31, 2008

Angels and trucks

It's Elijah's 4th birthday today.

He woke up early with me at around 6:30am. I set the alarm so I could have some extra time to go over the sermon and listen to God. Instead, I did a lot of listening to the birthday boy.

We spent the morning at church. I preached on prayer. Healing prayer.

I don't tend to see visions very often but I envisioned angels seated around the stage. That was my clue that things might end a bit differently this Sunday. We had a time of anointing and prayer after the services. God showed up in spite of me.

When I got home we sang happy b-day, ate cake and played with Elijah's new racetrack and trucks.

All in the typical day of a pastor-dad.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


I think God has been flirting with me lately.

I'm not sure if He's going to make the dinner reservations or if He's expecting me to do it.

I'm also not sure who's going to pick up the tab at the end of the night.

He usually covers it.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Preaching what I don't know much about


That's the subject of my talk this Sunday. I'm finishing off a series in the book of James. I wish someone else was scheduled to preach that message.

For me, prayer is something I know very little about. I don't spend much time in intercession. I rarely remember to ask God for help when I'm in a pinch (like the time I got my tractor stuck in a snowy ditch at 1am on Valentine's day just after pulling my car out of that same ditch). I figure I can help myself get out of difficult situations. But the "I-can-do-it-myself" mentality is horrible when you're getting ready to preach on prayer.

There isn't a safe way to approach the subject of prayer. I can't intellectualize it. I can't give a series of quick facts or concepts that will instantly snap people into perfect spiritual shape. Prayer is one of those things that must be practiced. Like soccer, or guitar. And I'll be the first to admit that I'm more like the team water boy or the guy who strings guitars backstage than I am like David Beckham or U2's The Edge.

Nonetheless, I'll stand up this Sunday and do my best to yak about a subject I feel so ignorant about: prayer. I know at least one person who will benefit from hearing the sermon. Me.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Staff meeting interruption

I had an interesting morning.

Staff meeting was moving along at record pace.  We were on track to finish in good time.  I had poured myself a hot cup of coffee and was enjoying my chocolate chip cookie when it happened.  Our custodian caught my eye through the glass doors.  

I was needed.  

Without hesitating I excused myself and made my way into the church foyer where I was greeted by a couple of distressed women.  They had a need: a friend who had run out of money.

I've never been comfortable with people asking for cash. 

I listened a lot and promised very little.  And at the end of our chat I was left wondering why I often feel helpless when it comes to helping the poor.  Is it because I don't like giving?  Is it because I've seen the impoverished take advantage of monetary handouts?  Maybe.

Or maybe it's because I feel so helpless.  I'm so accustomed to knowing what to do and how to do it.

When it comes to poverty, I have a lot to learn.  I wish there was a simple formula or a fail safe system developed to help the poor.  I haven't found it yet.  Maybe it doesn't exist.

One day, I pray, I'll be able to offer more than I did today.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dream on

I'm at my best when dreaming.  Not a pie-in-the-sky kind of fantasizing but a "let's pretend we relaxed the rules a bit" sort of dreaming.  Of course, dreams are always best when they are grounded in a firm sense of what has happened in the past and what is currently happening in the present.

When I think about the Canadian church in 20 years, I wonder what staffing will be like.  Will there even be such a thing as "church staff"?  Will we be hiring discipleship pastors, care pastors, worship pastors, youth pastors, children's pastors, small groups pastors, young adults pastors, family pastors, executive pastors, administrative pastors, etc?  

Quick.  Did Jesus call His Church a bride or business? 

What did the early church do without all those specialized pastors?

I've got some ideas.  Maybe I'll share them another day.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Thoughts from an E

My office door is rarely closed.  I like people and I generally don't mind being interrupted by someone who needs my help.  I think it's because I'm an E.

But not everyone is an E.

Our church's leadership team recently filled out a Myers-Briggs questionnaire.  We wanted to learn about our personality differences and how we could compliment each other in ministry.  Here's what I learned: 
1.  The youth pastor and I have the same temperaments (we're both ENTP's for those of you that are interested).  
2.  The majority of our ministry council members are Introverts. 
3.  Our staff team is dominated by Extroverts (Now you know what E stands for).  That's probably why the talking keeps flowing long after the coffee has gone cold!

I often wonder how many details get missed in our staff meetings when we neglect the thoughtful analysis of our introverted team members.  I don't find it easy but I want to excel at the words of James when he writes, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." (James 1:19)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Attractional church

Why do we invest so much time and energy on attracting people to Sunday morning church?

Didn't Jesus say "Go and make disciples...." rather than come to a religious service. I don't really remember him advertising the local Sabbath service at the synagogue with cool newspaper ads and funny dramas.

When I think about the quantity of time and energy I've been investing in attracting people to our Sunday morning services it makes me sick. Shouldn't I be spending my best energy on disciple-making rather than making a slick and entertaining Sunday experience?

Lately I feel like I've become an administrator of church experience instead of a pastor who calls people's attention back to God.

Maybe I'm just feeling burned out.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Crush

I think my wife is the sexiest and most attractive woman I know.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Canadian church: society or community?

Lately I've been reading a provocative little book called Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace by James B. Torrance.

He is professor emeritus of systematic theology at the U. of Aberdeen, Scotland so it's a bit denser than the chainsaw catalogue on our coffee table shelf.

I was struck by his former prof's ideas about "society" and "community".  He writes,

"Professor John Macmurray... used to draw a distinction between "society" and "community."  He defined society as a collection of individuals indirectly related to one another by law, by employment, by contract, to meet needs (economic, financial, physical, etc.).  Community, on the other hand, he defined as a group of persons in relation, directly related by love." (p. 40)

I wonder whether the Canadian church would be better characterized as a "society" or "community"?  

My hunch?  


To me the church seems more bound up in rules than relationships.  It feels institutionalized.

I don't it, institutional Christianity.  The kind of religion that is more concerned with buildings, money and my denominational markings than it is with fostering genuine community.  I long to see people nurturing community where the emphasis is on knowing one another rather than knowing about each other.  I think it's time that my religious brand or social class isn't the primary factor that determines whether I'm accepted or not.  I dream of a day when I'm part of a community where love, not a label, is the mark of belonging.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Technology and worship

Since when has worship become so dependent on technology?

Luke and I recently mounted a new widescreen video projector in the church sanctuary.  As with anything "do-it-yourself" project, there were some minor glitches.  For example we had to adjust the mounted projector to fill the screen, we had to do some signal checks from different computers and finally we had to change the screen resolution from 800 x 600 to 1280 x 768 dpi.  Since Luke is a tech savvy guy I figured things would be fairly straightforward.

They weren't.

Something went loopy with our song projection software.  We tried to recover the song database last night.  We gave up at 11:15pm without a resolution.

I came home, frustrated and annoyed, wondering when church worship became so dependent on technology.  Does technology enhance or detract from our God directed worship?  Is what we call "Sunday morning worship" is better defined as a Christianized theatre production?  Do we gather primarily to proclaim the goodness and sovereignty of God, through Jesus, or are we more interested in being satisfied that the "Sunday morning show" was worth the hour and fifteen minutes we spent at church?  

For myself, I'm not sure I can answer that question yet.  I'd welcome your thoughts from wherever you sit.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Course writing

I've been writing a Distance Education New Testament course since May.  

It's August and I'm so close to being finished that I can almost taste it.  

Tonight Erika spent a much needed evening out with a friend.  While she was sipping coffee, I was combing through a textbook looking for juicy test questions.  

I had to find 20.  I was at number 18 when my wife pulled in the driveway.

Here's what' left to do before the course is complete:
Submit two exams (mid-term and final)
Upload the last 2 tests to my website
Compile videos, supplementary notes and the syllabus onto a DVD
Get the okay from the DE committee at the college that everything is good to go

Looks pretty simple, I know, but I've submitted enough already to know that there are always unforeseen issues that demand attention.

Here's hoping I'm all finished by this time next week!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Visit from my folks

My parents just left.

They came up this past weekend to spend some quality time with me, Erika and the kids. It was relaxing and fun. We ate good food, spent time catching up and even had time to put a roof on our treehouse.

Friday, August 1, 2008

you don't want to read it when...

Any letter that begins with the words "Dear Sir" is not a letter I want to read.

I got one of those letters today. It was from my friends at the Canada Revenue Agency. The letter asks for my charitable donations receipts from previous tax years so they can verify that I have actually given money to charities. They don't want to talk about it, they want my receipts in an envelope headed for PEI.

The people I know well don't tend to write me letters. They talk to me. When they do write me, the tone is warm and sometimes funny, like a Robert Munsch book. Other letters I receive are hand written and serious in nature. Like what you'd find in a dictionary. Usually I don't know those letter-writers well.

It's the people who don't know me, like the good folks at the CRA, who write letters with cool, calculated precision. There are no questions about how my family is doing or whether I'm enjoying my summer. No, these letters are written with an agenda; a demand; an issue in mind.

I wonder how many of those letters could be avoided if the writer used their lips to do more talking than licking.
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